Noise Pop Show Review: The Fresh & Onlys, Disappears, Talkdemonic at Bottom of the Hill, 2/22/12

by Caroline Hernandez on February 27, 2012


The Fresh & Onlys gaze on...

The Bottom of the Hill is one of those venues where amazing things can happen. Its intimate space creates a setting where bands, their friends, and patrons can all rub elbows without the pretense of Rock Stardom bogging down a conversation. Many a band right on the verge of blowing up have graced the stage fully aware of their sparkling future and have played to it, creating an “I was there” situation where one constantly reminds his or her friends (or just about anyone who happens to be around) of the night they saw so-and-so play Bottom of the Hill. I’ve been known to drop an “I was there” once or twice myself (cough Arcade Fire cough).

 On this particular night, after having an amazing time at a non-Noise Pop show the night before, I was ready to continue the party. Noise Pop, after-all, is my SXSW exercise. Talkdemonic was my first band of the night and a highly anticipated show for me. It was clear that Lisa Molinaro and Kevin O’Connor are both highly talented musicians, showing their versatility by switching back and forth between instruments. This was apparently their first show at Bottom of the Hill, which I consider to be one of the factors that contribute to “I was there” syndrome. Their on-stage banter was also confident and charming.

 Cascades of noise swirled all around the room as O’Conner created the beats on his drum kit, and Molinaro played dramatically distorted violin.  The sound wasn’t as impeccable as I would have hoped with a lot of the sounds blending too quickly into one another. That, along with a particularly drab Wednesday crowd made for a less than impressive concert experience for a band I’m really getting into. Although, hearing “Final Russian” live was a glimmer in the dark.

This kind of apathy only continued into Disappears, the co-headliner, whom I felt should have been booked as the second band. Their brand of psychedelic rock was too repetitive for me to enjoy. Jagged vocals and guitar parts that were too long made me feel like I should have taken narcotics during the set change, or better yet, should have been provided by the band as a sort of disclaimer to their live show. Pretty much all the songs sounded the same, and I wasn’t left with a big enough impression to try and validate Disappears by seeking out their music, as they said very little on stage to engage the audience.  Perhaps they felt just as disappointed by the corpse crowd too, who knows.

The Fresh & Onlys felt like a huge breath of fresh air after their co-headliners disappeared off stage. When I hear The Fresh & Onlys, it makes me think of Dick Dale after a few emotional wipeouts; that familiar surf rock sound, but accompanied by dark, haunted vocals. The band themselves look nothing like surfers, with beards, bouffant hairstyles, and baseball caps all representing their local San Francisco style. In my head, they wear hawaiian shirts and have tropical cocktails in their hands, but that’s beside the point.

Lead singer, Tim Cohen, gazed on as he went through songs, occasionally dedicating one to union members, his band-mate, etc. They played new favorites, “Summer of Love” and “Waterfall” off of their most recent album, Play it Strange. However, again it felt like the sound and the crowd was working against the show. Vocals were hard to hear through the muddled distortion and the most the zombies in the audience were able to give was light to moderate head bobbing.

The band played a solid set, and I think I would still go and see them headline their own show.

Perhaps on a night that promised Die Antwood at the Regency, this particular Noise Pop showcase fell victim to scheduling conflicts and an amateur, unfamiliar crowd. What should have been an exciting continuance to a great week of music failed to provide that special spark that brings Bottom of the Hill alive, and a notch left to be etched in my belt.

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